In this part of my review I wish to briefly explore Harries discussions on the postmodern view of language. He is attempting to describe the views of Anthony Freeman the postmodernist theologian who has ceased to believe in a supernatural or transcendent God – seeing Him rather as being a projection of human ideals. Much of postmodernism has its roots in relativism, subjectivism and a sort of late Wittgensteinian Philosophy of Language.

A simple exposition of this philosophy goes like this:

mind is a social reality and language a public phenomenon. We see mothers bending over their prams making noises at their babies. In due course the noises are reciprocated and come to be recognized as talk. Soon this talk becomes internalized as thought. But the talk is prior and public and this enters into the very soul of our thinking. Because language is a public possession, written texts are particularly important. How those texts are intepreted or read still depends very much on the interests and outlook of the readers and these in turn will reflect the ineterests and concerns already built into the language that we use to intepret the texts. If we say we want to find out what a particular text really means, we are stymied, for the language we used to interpet it ourselves is a given, which will shape how we read…

Harries, again somewhat suprisingly is not completely anti-pomo. He accepts a certain degree of interpretative and cognitive relativism. However he rejects total scepticism and abandonment of truth and meaning notions – correctly suggesting that such a position would dissolve philosophy into just one of many methods of literary criticism.

I would just add by means of a clarification that although language is public and in turn shapes our ways of thinking this should by no means be used to suggest that speech is thought, or that absence of speech indicates absence of thought. (I could write much more here on my theories of unthought-thoughts and vocal-thought-thinking-thoughts or about the conscious and unconscious but I will digress.)

I will finish with a quote from Anthony Freeman that illustrates what one may call a postmodern view of religion – it is this view which Harries is ultimately attempting to challenge with recourse to realist arguments.

“A false distinction within Christian doctrine itself between an essential core and a negotiable husk. In presenting the faith to this generation I am bound to be presenting a different faith from that which my forefathers presented. Not just a different interpretation of the same essential core, but a different faith. This is because there is no essence of inner core. The interpretation is not like taking the shell off a nut. It is like peeling the layers off an onion: the interpretation goes all the way down. All is intepretation. That is the essence.”